Friday, July 13, 2007

I say Maccas, You say Macker's, Apostrophe optional

I hate to draw more attention to the McDonald’s chain of Family Restaurants than is necessary but we have a National Emergency relating to the spelling of Aussie slang.

Last week while perusing Dr June Factor’s excellent book on children's colloquialisms Kidspeak! I noticed the following definition

Macker’s = McDonald’s

Wait a minute…. Dr Factor is a highly respected academic and author of kids’ favourites such as “Far out Brussel Sprout!” and “All right, Vegemite!”. Surely she would know that we Aussies call McDonald’s


Don’t we? Five out of five adults I asked that night thought so. But I did the honourable thing and emailed Dr Factor to ask how, why, what!? Here is her lovely reply

Dear Ms Asterisk and Ms Ellipsis,

.. it's all about pronunciation: my spelling is an attempt to catch
the sound (and note the apostrophe). But of course you may well be right, at least where you live, and people pronounce it your way*. …



* content not related to our discussion omitted

Pronunciation we can agree on, it’s spelling that is causing me angst. How do we check which spelling is used most? Let’s check that paragon of knowledge: the Internet


  • “Maccas” turns up 183,000 search results; all results on the first page concerned McDonald's, top result referred to the Australian McDonald's Website .
  • “Mackers” turns up 57,800 searches; none of the first page results referred to McDonald's.

Fairfax Newspaper Archives
A search of the Fairfax archives in the last 12 months finds 48 references to “Maccas” but no references to “Mackers” or “Macker’s”.

ABC website
A search of the ABC website finds 44 references to “Maccas” as in the restaurant (Not Ian “Macca” McNamara) and one reference to “Macker’s” (PM program in 2001).

The Australian Index (exploring australian blogs)
A search of this website revealled 78 references to "Maccas" and 3 references to "Mackers"

Neither term is referenced in the Macquarie Dictionary or the Australian Word Map.

So where is the spelling “Mackers” used? It's used in websites designed to introduce non-Australians to Australian slang such as the ones here and here. References to these and similar “Aussie slang” websites are to be found in a few blogs but the spelling "Mackers" doesn't appear to be extensive.

Spelling is something that evolves over time and “Maccas/Mackers” is a young word. Which one will win out? I reckon the overwhelming case is for a “Maccas” spelling.

What do you think? I mean, not that I care but, well, it’s just going to annoy me.

One thing is certain: it’s obvious from the literature that we have no idea whether Maccas/Mackers has an apostrophe or not. I’m voting for not. But that is a subject that deserves its own post.

NEW! Vote for your preferred spelling in our online poll. See the sidebar for details.


Ms Asterisk said...

Fascinating post - this truly is an issue of national importance.

We'll need to also poll
- Bogan or bogun
- Scotchy pants or Scotchie pants
- The Obie, The OB or The Obee

Ms Ellipsis said...

OMG hadn't even thought about the spelling of Obie/OB/Obee. And that is an OLD colloquialism from our deep dark past.

Must get onto changing the world one spelling query at a time...

Team SAK said...

What a cutting edge entry on a pertinent great Aussie question. There is no debate- it should be Maccas! Check out what the youth of today think- they have their finger on the pulse. Looking forward to the next great debates and adding my "2 bobs worth".

newdew said...

I think the colloquialism is defiantly "Maccas" as it is an extension of the familiar nic name Macca re: Mackenzie, max, McDonald etc...) You would say your going to Maccas place not Mackers. We (Australians) are too lazy to say "er" instead of "a". It takes too long. And it would make you sound like a tosser!


Ms Ellipsis said...

Excellent summary newdew. I agree, an "a" ending results in the right amount of nasal twang - an "er" ending is too BrE (British English) or AmE (American English).

Wil El-dropper said...

Well neither spelling is in my Nokias dictionary, so I dont know how the txting generation would spell it.

Ms Ellipsis said...

Hi Will El-dropper, Thanks for dropping by.

Fairlie @ asked a broad sample of two Year 4 girls and they thought "Macas" for the txt generation.

Jane said...

I think of it as a conflation between the 's' of big shops - DJ's, Macys, Woolworths/Woollies and the curious ending '-ers' on 'chockers', 'preggers', 'Sinkers' [Sinclair/Singapore...]. Delightfully ambiguous between a possessive and a plural and a weird weird thing

Ms Ellipsis said...

Absolutely. We should embrace the ambiguity.

It's like the debate between a writer's/writers'/writers festival. I think the perfect fence-sit is writers but some insist on the apostrophe going somewhere. I say, relax, leave it be. :-)

C in Seattle said...

I got here by Googling "mackers australia"! INteresting . . .